Izamal is a small city in Yucatán, about 70 km east of the capital, Mérida. It has deep roots in the Mayan and Spanish colonial past, with impressive historic architecture. By local tradition, most buildings are painted yellow.
In ancient Mayan times Izamal was sacred to the Creator God "Itzamna" and to the Sun God "Kinich Ahau". The city was a place of pilgrimage from throughout the Mayan lands.
When the Spanish conquered Yucatán, they followed their usual practice of building a new Spanish town atop the Mayan city, but at Izamal some of the Mayan structures were so massive that the Spanish contented themselves with putting churches and convents on top of them rather than demolishing them completely.
Izamal is still a regional place of pilgrimage, only now worshippers come to pay homage to the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception, also known as Our Lady of Izamal. Pope John Paul II visited Izamal in 1993 and presented the statue of the Virgin with a silver crown.
The Mayan, Colonial Spanish, and Modern mix comfortably in Izamal. The Mayan language is still often heard here spoken here, although most people also have at least a working knowledge of Spanish.
By car or bus. Second-class bus from Mérida or Valladolid. First-class bus from Cancún. The bus station is just a block west of the Municipal Palace. From Merida you can take the collectivo between 54/52 and 65. They run every 20 min. Last one to come back from Izamal is at 6pm.
Taxis from Merida were quoting a one way trip to Izamal at M$700 (as of Sep 2018)
Oriente second class buses depart to Izamal at Merida's Noreste Terminal, several times a day. One-way bus tickets were M$31 as of Sep 2018. The journey take about 1.5 hours, depending on the number of stops in the small towns along the way.
If you drive in, park your car near one of the 3 plazas around the monastery complex at the center of town; sites of interest are within walking distance.
- Mayan ruins around the town center: Kinich Kakmo pyramid to the north, Pap Hol Chac to the south, Itzamatul to the east and Kabul to the west.
- The Colonial Franciscan Monastery of San Antonio de Padua was completed in 1561. It looks like it's atop a natural hill, but the base is really an ancient Mayan acropolis. When completed, the atrium was second in size only to the Vatican. Mayan and Yucatan history buffs should be sure to look inside for the original painted portrait of Bishop Diego de Landa, the conquistador-era cleric with the double edged legacy: his written accounts preserve invaluable information about Mayan history and culture, but at the same time, de Landa ordered the burning of all the pre-Hispanic Mayan libraries, as part of his campaign to stamp out paganism. A sound and light show is held in the atrium Monday thru Saturday evenings.
- Centro Cultural - beside the Monastery on 5 de Mayo Park. Museum displays, mostly relating to local handicrafts, and cultural center; also has a cafe.
- Palacio Municipal - the Municipal Palace has tourist information, in addition to various public displays, including historical models of the city. West of the Monastery, across 5 de Mayo Park.
Every day except on Sundays, there is a sound & light show in the atrium of the convent, at 8:30 pm. On Sundays from about 9AM to 3PM, locals gather at Parque Zamna (the park on the north side of the Monastery) for a paseo with live music, vendors, and refreshments.
- Municipal Market is to the southwest of the Monastery.
- Hecho a Mano shop on the main square has local handicrafts.
Several restaurants. Most are not open late.
- Restaurante Kinich (El Sabor de Izamal), Calle 27 No. 299 X28 y 30 (close to the entrance to Kinich Kak Mo Pyramid), ☏ . 11am to 7pm daily. One of the most well known and appreciated restaurants in the Yucatan. Very reasonably priced and very busy with locals on the weekends. Bright yellow stucco facade with open air palapa style dining room to the rear. Specializes in Yucatecan dishes. Be sure to visit the local ladies in the back patting fresh corn tortillas. US$ 10-15.
A few hotels and bed & breakfasts in town. From budget Posadas to comfort hotels there is accommodation for everybody
- Campingmexico, Calle 18 x 33, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. campsites with or without electricity, modern, clean bath rooms only campground in between Campeche and Cancun US$10-25.
- Izamal Hotel (Romantic Hotel Santo Domingo), Calle 18 x 33 Izamal, Yucatan (Calle 18 x 33), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Check-in: 3.00pm, check-out: 11.30 am. Best value in town, different categories from standard to Junior Suites, family suite, all rooms in the tropical garden with exotic plants and fruit trees, free full breakfast, free parking on property and WiFi Internet, pool massages, sundeck,restaurant, bar. US$49-110.
- Hotel Macanche. Various casitas and rooms, each one different, are spread throughout the gardens. The restaurant serves breakfast and dinner. Also available for groups and yoga retreats.
A couple of cyber cafes ("Ciber Café") in town; one is by the bus station. Some hotels also offer internet access.
The post office is north of the Municipal Palace; one can also make long-distance phone calls from here.
- Mérida, the state capital and largest city is to the west.
- Chichen Itza, the largest ancient Mayan ruins in Yucatan, are to the east.
- Valladolid, pleasant Spanish Colonial city, a bit further east than Chichen.